In Memory

Randy P. Conner

Our classmate Randy Conner passed away on May 5, 2022, after suffering a stroke in late 2021.   He is survived by his husband, David Hatfield Sparks, who writes:

“Randy P. Conner, my beloved, went to ride with Charon on May 5, 2022 — Cinco de Mayo. He passed through the Veil in the night at home with his Bast kitten guarding him. We were together 43 years. David Hatfield Sparks

In honor of Randy, a scholarship is being created in his name to support an LGBTQ+ student studying in the Fine and Performing Arts program at Moraine Valley Community College where he was Associate Professor of multicultural Humanities.   

To donate to Randy’s scholarship:

• Go online to donate via credit or debit card using this donation page dedicated to Randy – https://www.morainevalley.edu/randy-conner/

• Or Mail a check made payable to the Moraine Valley Foundation and write “Randy’s Scholarship” in the memo of the check. Mail to Moraine Valley Foundation, 9000 W. College Parkway, Palos Hills, IL 60465”

Randy was so talented, and inspired creativity in so many of us.  He will be missed by classmates from Bellaire, and his students and co-workers at Moraine Valley Community College.  Rest in peace, Randy.  

 



 
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06/24/22 09:38 AM #1    

Lester Bronstein

Dear Classmates, 

I would love to share a tribute story I wrote about Randy only days before I learned of his death.  Hoping it doesn't take too much space in this posting site.  Love, Les Bronstein

“Caravan Tonight”

In Memory of Randy Conners

Rabbi Lester Bronstein, June 23, 2022

The first truly “out” friend I ever had was my high school classmate Randy Conners.  My brilliant, creative, insightful, compassionate classmate Randy Conners. 

Randy was part of our small circle of “literati” at school.  We were members of Mrs. Shirley Wiley’s elite English and Humanities class.  We read hard books.  We talked about them and wrote about them.  We spent serious time with each other in school and out of school.  We visited each other’s homes frequently.  We shared what was on our hearts and in our minds.

Randy wanted us to know that he was gay.  He wanted us to love him as he loved us, and to accept him as a brother and companion, just as he accepted and cherished us.

Randy knew I was not gay, but he invited me to go dancing with him at a gay men’s disco.  I gladly went as his date.  We had gone to concerts and dinner together, but this was different. 

We had a great time.  His face glowed with pride – pun intended – the entire evening.  He could be in his public space with his true friend, and no one would think twice about it.

If there was a specific time in my life when someone helped me to understand the truth behind the variety of sexual orientations we humans experience, it was those years in high school and college with my brilliant and patient friend Randy.

One evening at his home when we got together during a college break, he showed me a record album.  He knew I loved music and played music, and he wanted me to know about “his” music.

The album was the breakthrough 1973 recording by Steven Grossman, “Caravan Tonight.” It was the first mainstream album of poignant love lyrics between men and men.

As we listened to the record, I spaced out on the album cover.  A young man looks out the window at evening time, while a medieval caravan passes through the neighborhood below.  Is he longing to join the caravan?  Is he intentionally keeping himself confined to his room, only looking out on the world but not knowing how to become part of it?

There’s a caravan tonight

I can hear it in the distance

You have many roads before you

Last night while you were sleeping

I put patches on your pants

And I watched you in your dreams

And I waited for the sun to bring you home

 

Randy went on to become a professor of humanities at a small college in Illinois.  He and his husband shared over forty years of loving marriage.  Randy was ahead of his time, and ours.  The cultural phenomenon we call “Pride” finally caught up with Randy, not the other way around.

I prepared this telling last week in anticipation of our synagogue’s “Pride Moth” gathering this evening.  Yesterday – yesterday! – I received a notice on our high school class listserv that Randy had suffered a stroke in December, to which he succumbed in May a few weeks ago.  He died on May 5.

I imagine him leaping from that window at sunrise, joining the caravan of history, and riding it proudly into the future he helped create for the rest of us. 

May the memory of the righteous be a blessing.


06/25/22 10:33 AM #2    

Ellie J Malavis

Randy and I lived one street apart from age 5 and were inseparable friends from kinderarten until his family moved to Winnie and Dilley, Texas. Our mothers were best friends and we spent much time at each other's homes on art projects, Walt Disney movies and so much more, doing everything together. I have a fond memory and newspaper clipping of us attending the premier of Mary Poppins at the Delman Theater in Houston when we were in the 6th grade at Longfellow Elementary. We were always in the same class from kindergarten. He loved Mary Poppins and knew all the songs by memory. We would play the album on his record player and dance endlessly. When his family was relocated to Winnie and Dilley, he wrote letters to me that he illlustrated in colored markers, which were incredible and expressive pieces of art that I still have and cherish. They are priceless.

Randy was such a unique, talented and brilliant individual. As a child, you knew he was very special and that he had so much to offer the world with his talent. His imagination was endless and as children, we spent hours in the world of "make believe." Not only was he artistic in every sense, he was always a straight A student.
Everyone liked and respected Randy Conner.

Randy was a special part of my childhood and my artistic and professional development, which he influenced greatly. He was gift to all of us in personal ways. May his memory be eternal.

Ellie Malavis

 


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